It’s fair to say that the 2020–21 school year was the most challenging in modern education history. Learning from home was difficult for students and their parents, but it was particularly hard for teachers, who had to quickly become effective virtual instructors — all on the fly.
Most teachers had to put in hundreds of extra hours, many late nights in front of the computer and extra time searching the web for learning materials and websites they could incorporate into their virtual classrooms. Did all of that extra work mean that teachers got paid more? Well … you know the answer to that. Absolutely not. In fact, some teachers were laid off because student populations dropped. The year in education was truly a hardship, if not a bit bizarre.
As the science supervisor of Martin County, Florida, I work with more than 300 K–12 teachers in our district. I can tell you from experience that our teachers went the extra mile, actually many extra miles, just to keep up. Their dedication was inspiring and reminded me of why I became a teacher in the first place: to help students prepare, grow and become successful in life.
I’m also an avid water puppy. Whether it’s a day at the beach, going out on the boat to fish and/or scuba dive or just swimming in the ocean, I love that salty liquid. All of that time on and under the water turned me into a conservationist. I want to vigorously protect my playground. It also tuned me into the value of hands-on learning. Remember how you loved field trips when you were in school? Well, teachers love them too because kids learn so much when they get their hands dirty (or wet). While the lack of activity in the ocean and on the reefs was helpful for the health of the ecosystem, the lack of travel and cancellation of field trips definitely hindered our ability to teach and student’s opportunity to learn.
Hands-on learning can certainly happen in the classroom or out in the field, but with COVID, both of those options were cancelled. I will tell you that in my experience, our teachers rose to the occasion and provided outstanding instruction during a difficult time for all. I was honored to work alongside our teachers and assist them through the huge learning curve. Through these trying times, I saw innovation, inspiration and a bit of magic provided by many teachers, organizations, and communities. It really does take a village, and this past year proved that we can work together for a common goal, especially when it is as important as teaching our students.
As fate would have it, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation began working on an online marine science and conservation curriculum before anyone had even heard of COVID-19. Way back in 2019, the GHOF was developing courses for the classroom and online. By the time the pandemic was at its peak, the GHOF educational curriculum was cooking — but not quite fully baked. Now, as the new school year is moving forward without COVID restrictions, the GHOF’s education offerings are vast and varied and available for hearty consumption.
Here’s a look at what students and teachers have at their disposal for free from the GHOF.
Florida Virtual School and GHOF developed a fun, comprehensive, state-standard based, environmental science curriculum for high schoolers. This is 100% online and is available to Florida students for free. The course is chock full of Jessica Harvey’s (Guy’s marine biologist daughter) educational videos and is fully accredited. While environmental science is not a required course, it’s highly popular as a precursor to biology, which is required. It’s also a great course for real life as our planet continues to face growing environmental threats. The GHOF is proud to have this extremely valuable and vital course in its arsenal.
Marine Science 101
Again, the GHOF partnered with a highly respected learning company — Ocean First Education — to create beautiful, exciting and standards-based marine science courses. High school students can learn all about the marine environment with the added spice of Guy Harvey art, photos and video. The courses take on modern and relevant issues, such as plastics in the ocean, overfishing, shark finning, invasive species, coral reefs and anything and everything about our life-giving water. This curriculum is offered free of charge to any school on planet Earth — as well as Mars once Elon Musk builds his colony there.
The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation channel on Discovery Education’s recently enhanced K-12 learning platform is officially a hit. Out of more than 650 educational channels on the platform, the GHOF channel consistently ranks among the most accessed. With more than 100 marine-oriented educational videos and more being produced and uploaded regularly, the channel is a favorite among the 45 million Discovery Ed students and 4.5 million educators using Discovery Education’s resources. Discovery Education’s collection of high-quality, ready-to-use digital lessons, and intuitive quiz and activity creation tools — including resources from the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation — is available to subscribing schools.
For several years, the GHOF has worked with SeaWorld’s Animal Rescue Center. Over the years, SeaWorld has rescued, rehabilitated and returned almost 40,000 animals, such as manatees, dolphins and birds (see article in Guy Harvey Magazine issue 37). Now, a new collaboration in education is blossoming between the GHOF and SeaWorld. Teacher workshops, new marine science curriculum and future educational events are all on tap.
Florida Power & Light
Florida Power & Light is more than just an energy company (see article on page 46). They are leading the nation in clean energy as well as education. A new partnership with FPL to educate students and teachers in marine science and conservation is in development.
Bergeron Everglades Foundation
There is no ecosystem on the planet quite like the Florida Everglades. This unique habitat is not only important to the wildlife that reside there but also to the health of our oceans. Ron Bergeron (also known as Alligator Ron) and his foundation have partnered with long-time friend Dr. Guy Harvey and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation to create an exciting new Sawgrass to Seagrass curriculum to teach students about the history of the Everglades and the interconnectedness of these freshwater and saltwater ecosystems. The Sawgrass to Seagrass courses are designed for middle school and high school students with no shortage of exciting videos, photos and activities weaved throughout. Not only will this curriculum be free to teachers and students but there also will be educator professional learning experiences right in the Everglades, so that teachers can learn about this vital ecosystem first-hand to take it into their classrooms.
There are myriad problems facing our troubled waters — overfishing, invasive species, coral reef diseases, plastics in our waterways, red tides, ocean acidification, loss of wetlands, agriculture runoff and so forth and so on. The good news is that the GHOF and many other outstanding organizations are working toward solutions. Plus, Gen Zs and millennials are well aware of the mess that we and our ancestors have created, and they are getting involved in major ways. The GHOF believes that one of the best ways to sustainability and clean water is through the magic of education — helping students and teachers make a difference in the world by focusing on the problems and ferreting out the solutions. If we educate our students and provide them with real life learning opportunities, whether virtual or in person, students will work for a better solution. They will save that which they know and love because our future depends on a healthy watery world.
Bay County is the first county in Florida to work with Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, creating county-wide educator professional learning experiences for their STEM teachers. These engaging, hands-on learning experiences are made possible by a generous grant from the St. Joe Community Foundation. The teachers will be trained on the use of all Guy Harvey educational content and will get to enjoy an experience out in the field, putting their new knowledge to use. Not only will they leave with a wealth of knowledge and renewed passion, but they’ll also be taking home a Guy Harvey “dive bag” that will include items for activities they can use in their classroom.
Martin County School District
On Aug. 3, the GHOF created a collaboration with the Martin County School District’s secondary teachers. The teachers got to go seine netting, boating and learned about the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation’s education resources.
The Martin County School District brought back real-life application and hands-on field work in the summer of 2021. In June, students attending summer school were provided the opportunity to have a field day at the Environmental Studies Center in Jensen Beach, Florida.
Students did a fish count while seining, learned about boating safety on their boat ride and participated in a plankton tow and lab. They even were able to meet the resident loggerhead sea turtle, Shelby, and Joey the alligator.
Since turtle nest season is during the summer months, the staff explained the problem of lights from condos and houses or other bright lights attracting baby turtles away from the water they’re supposed to be heading for. They also learned how their nests are marked and made. There were smiles, giggles and squeals of joy from the students. The ESC even ran a full summer camp this year with boating, seining, sand sculpture contest, fishing and a variety of other activities.